The untold truth of Lil Xan

Lil Xan has developed a winning formula by creating emotional songs where he mumbles his way through bass-heavy beats while proclaiming his love for drugs. Born Diego Leanos and hailing from Redlands, Calif., the "Wake Up" lyricist turned his young adult angst into a bustling rap career, complete with a chart-topping debut album, Total Xanarchy, and legions of fans who are enchanted by the insurgent of moody and somber rap music. However, with a hip-hop moniker that's an obvious nod to the anti-anxiety medication Xanax, Lil Xan can thank his penchant for fetishizing drug culture for his meteoric rise to stardom. 

The rapper's rags-to-riches life story is one to be admired, but his foot-in-mouth syndrome during candid interviews has caused him to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. Whether you're a fan of the SoundCloud wave of music, or you simply detest the influx of rappers with the same cookie-cutter image — right down to their face tattoos and gold grills — there's no denying that Lil Xan is a formidable force to be reckoned with. 

So how did a kid who grew up "loving symphonies" get crowned the emo-rap prince? Let's find out as we explore the untold truth of Lil Xan.

So long, high school

How hard is it to fail gym class? All one has to do is show up, throw on some sweatpants, and run a few laps around the track in order to get a passing grade, right? Well, if you're Lil Xan, P.E. was apparently a struggle. But he didn't only fail gym class — he failed all of his high school courses, as he preferred to doodle and play video games instead of doing his homework, according to Billboard

He told the No Jumper podcast, "They're like, 'How the f**k you fail P.E., that s**t easy, bro.' I'm a lazy son of a b***h." He also revealed he wound up failing every class he had up until he "dropped out freshman year."

Being cooped up in a classroom just wasn't his style. "I just cannot sit down for seven hours a day and listen to some old b***h just talk about s**t I ain't ever gonna need," he said. His song "F**k My Teachers" is starting to make a lot more sense, isn't it?

Thankfully for Lil Xan, his lack of a formal education didn't hinder his ascension on the music charts. Although success seemingly fell into his lap overnight, it took him some time to embrace rap music as a legit career path.

Rapping was simply 'a joke'

Long before his January 2018 surge to the no. 5 spot on Billboard's Emerging Artists chart, Lil Xan was making ends meet with a series of odd jobs, including a gig as a street sweeper in which he got paid about $8 an hour and had to work around 11 hours per day. 

He also worked as a freelance photographer, which was his first passion in life. While speaking with DJ Smallz Eyes, the "Betrayed" MC said his first camera had a price tag of $2,000 and was a present from his parents, but it wouldn't remain in his possession for long. "At one of my homey's shows … I put my camera down by the DJ booth and someone unfortunately stole it," he said during the interview.

With his beloved camera missing in action, he decided to experiment with rap music. Since most of his friends were rappers, he figured he "might as well try" to give it a go, as well. He went into the recording studio, laid down his vocals, and gave his friends $20 to mix the track to perfection. The rapper, who Billboard described as a "shy kid," admitted, "Rapping was a joke, but the music helped me break out of my shell." 

And, as they say, the rest is history.

He's forbidden from getting face tattoos

Some people go for an inconspicuous location for their very first tattoo — you know, like their lower back or their ankle. But when Lil Xan decided to join the ink club, he chose the most noticeable spot. His very first tattoo was the name "Candy" inked on his face, right below his eye. No, it doesn't stand for eye candy, which would be pretty clever in our opinion. Instead, it just so happens to be his mom's name, and he knew the only way she'd approve of him getting some permanent ink on his mug was if it were done in her honor, he revealed in an interview.

Since then, he has added multiple tattoos all over his body, but his face is now off-limits. "I have plans [to get more on my] chest and arms, but the face, my manager says I can't get anymore. I have to keep the face intact," he said.

He's part of the anti-drug movement

One of his most popular songs, "Betrayed," pays homage to the anti-anxiety medication, Xanax. The lyrics, "Xans gon' fake you / Xans gon' betray you," are rapped in a slow and methodical way, with Lil Xan slurring his words as if he's about to crash and fall asleep at any moment. He told Billboard in a January 2018 interview that he was actually on "Xannie" during the recording session for the track, and that was the very last time he used the drug.

One of the reasons he decided it was time to give up the prescription medication for good was when his friend and fellow rapper, Lil Peep, died from an overdose of Xanax and fentanyl (via TMZ).

"There are still rappers that are doing what they're doing. And they're gonna do what they're gonna do regardless, but it hit too close to home," he told Pigeons and Planes about his reason to go Xanax-free. "I'm not saying it was the turning point of me deciding to be anti-Xan. I was anti-Xan months and [months] ago, but it was definitely a wake-up call and a reminder that this s**t is real."

Anxiety makes him feel like he's going to 'die everyday'

It's no secret that Lil Xan developed an addiction to Xanax while trying to treat his anxiety diagnosis. But his battles with the mental health disorder may be more troubling than many of his fans know. Most of his songs are scattered reflections from his stream of consciousness, but his Twitter account is where he really gives his fans more insight on just how anxiety has affected his life. "Everything I talk about is real when it comes to being heartbroken or having anxiety that makes me feel like I'm gonna die everyday!" he once tweeted.

In April 2018, it appeared that his anxiety had started to affect his work commitments, as well. "Dallas I love you to death but I'm sorry I couldn't make it due to a personal conflict and travel issues," he tweeted after being forced to cancel a scheduled performance in the Texas city.

He followed up his apology with another heartbreaking message. "I'm not gonna lie I'm really going through some s**t rn mentally but I'm gonna push through this because I wanna show y'all that you are not alone, no matter what is going on in your life don't feel like you are alone! I"m right here next to you going through the same s**t."

He got 'banned' from hip hop

During an interview with Revolt TV, he was asked to rate hip-hop legend Tupac Shakur on a scale of one to ten. Lil Xan gave the "Dear Mama" rapper a "two" for his "boring music," and simultaneously opened up the floodgates for some pretty harsh criticism from disgruntled rap fans.

While he may have an ally in rapper Mac Miller (pictured), other artists, including Waka Flocka Flame, turned against him. "LiL Xan banned from hip hop," Waka Flocka Flame wrote in a March 2018 tweet. "Pac help [sic] me get thru childhood!!! S**t hurt to see the youth disrespect [a] man that paved the way for all of us literally…" he continued in a follow-up tweet.

In the weeks that followed, Lil Xan found out that taking shots at a hip-hop pioneer was a big no-no. While visiting a fast food chain in his hometown, he was surrounded by an angry mob of high school-aged kids who took offense to his Shakur diss. According to TMZ, Lil Xan had to "run to a nearby YMCA" where a police officer rescued him and escorted him safely to his car and out of harm's way.

All of the backlash caused the rapper to retreat back into his shell and declare he was "done doing interviews" in a tweet, but he did attempt to right his wrongs by playing Shakur's song "California Love" during one of his concerts.

He considers himself 'unlucky'

No one is as surprised as Lil Xan himself that his music gained traction so quickly. "Everything has changed and I'm watching it get crazier and crazier," he told Pigeons and Planes.

What's most shocking to him is how fate dealt him the right cards at a time when he didn't know which direction his life would take. Considering he had a string of bad breaks for most of his life, including growing up "dirt poor" and living out of motels with his family, his success can now be deemed the cherry on top of the proverbial ice cream sundae. 

"Growing up, I was pretty unlucky," he told the website. "I wouldn't even win a two-dollar scratch off lottery ticket, but to achieve what I'm achieving right now, it's blessings. Every day is something new and I'm still trying to figure out how to process this and take it all in."

He just might be the luckiest unlucky person ever.

Farewell, Lil Xan

Since his days of popping Xanax are behind him, Lil Xan may be in need of a name change. The woozy and melancholy lyricist has been toying around with shelving his drug-inspired moniker to set a positive example for his fans.

As one of the leader's of hip-hop's anti-drug movement, Lil Xan told TMZ in January 2018 that he was looking into changing his rap name to "Diego," his legal first name. "But for right now, we gon' stay Lil Xan. Later down the road, I'll change it to Diego," he told the publication.

For those who thought he was just joshing about the name switcheroo, he expressed the same sentiment a few days before the release of his debut album, Total Xanarchy, on April 6, 2018. His tweet read, in part, "[Total Xanarchy is] the last project dropping under the name Lil Xan," promising that his sophomore album was well underway.

Diego may not be as catchy as Lil Xan, but we'll give him props for leaving the drug reference in the dust.